I had an interesting conversation with a prospect the other day about what it takes to be average versus mediocre. It all started when a young man, John, called and said his boss recommended that he get some sales training as he was not closing enough new business. We agreed to meet and discuss his interest in professional development as well as whether he qualified to attend my training. After some discussion, I discovered that he was the 17th best salesperson in his company which put him in the middle of his sales team. After 5 years his performance fluctuated from a high of 8th to a low of 22nd which, by the way, he was very comfortable with! My favorite quote of the meeting was, "A little sales knowledge couldn't hurt as it's only 90 minutes per week." He went on to say, "I'm an average performer ... good enough to get by and better than most," which in my mind were damning phrases. Approximately 60% of salespeople are average performers who, with a little help, could raise their performance to max out their talent.
After a little conversation, John agreed to take my behavioral assessment to benchmark his behavior and skill, and the results were eye-opening. He scored a lot higher than I expected in most sales categories, except one ... ambition and drive which was well below average. On a side note, ambition and drive is the sales motor which controls all performance. The assessment made it obvious that was a young man who had the talent to be a much higher performer, however, chose to live the comfort zone of mediocrity.
When we met to review the results, I began by saying, "this is a wonderful picture of your ability as you certainly are not average" to which he sat a little taller and beamed. I went on to explain that the results of the assessment showed he was not average but mediocre which is one of the worst indictments I could deliver. Anyone who has the gift to perform at a higher level, but chooses not to, is mediocre in my estimation. In my world the definition of average centers on turning skill and behavior into productive activity and performing that at your highest level. An average salesperson consistently maxes out their current talent by performing to the best of their ability each day. A mediocre performer, on the other hand, settles for the comfortable execution of selling behavior and is unwilling to push their performance envelope. Average performers continue to strive for greater success even though they may reach a performance plateau. Mediocre performers rely on "good enough" and "better than most" explanations for their performance.
The area that separates average from mediocre is centered on the choices each salesperson makes. Mediocre performers allow fear, doubt and worry to guide their choices while average to excellent performers use commitment, conviction and competency to guide theirs.
I believe that mediocrity is self-inflicted and can be overcome with a little a strong commitment to living the fullest life, personal and professional, you are capable of living. We are all living the life we are willing to accept so if you're dissatisfied with your performance, make better choices that challenge your existing effort and comfort zones.
Stop measuring excellence with your existing level of talent and ask yourself, "Do I need to improve my behavior, attitude or technique to raise my performance level?" Risk discomfort and challenge all beliefs that hold your growth hostage.
We are not born to be mediocre. It is something we learn during our life and either fight to overcome daily or accept and live a life of "what if". The choice is yours and I hope you decide to challenge the fears that hold your success hostage. Go conquer your worlds!
• Bill Bartlett owns Corporate Strategies, A Sandler Training Center. firstname.lastname@example.org. Text "salestip" to 35893 to receive Bill's biweekly newsletter.